The Dartington Experiment
a place to play, live and learn …
Dartington is an old place with a new story. It is a beautiful place to visit, but it has always been much more than that. It attracts people with big ideas who want to change the world.
The Dartington Experiment began over 90 years ago when the founders of Dartington Hall, Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, arrived on the Devon estate in 1925. Intrigued by the idea of a ‘many-sided’ life, these two progressive activists set out to restore the ruined medieval Hall and estate, and build a community of artists, students, craftspeople, and farmers. Their work, rooted in the local community, had a huge impact on the world outside Dartington – deeply involved as it was in the foundation of the NHS and the welfare state, the Arts Council, agricultural reforms and much more.
Today, the Dartington Estate continues to thrive: visitors enjoy the arts programme, cinema, gardens, and wider estate; artists, makers, farmers, educators, craftspeople and entrepreneurs live and work; and the community continues to ‘learn by doing’ – finding inspiration in the Elmhirst’s progressive ideas and experimental approach.
In 1925, Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst purchased the neglected 14th century Dartington estate.
The Elmhirsts were pioneers, inspired by many innovative thinkers of the time – and through Dorothy’s inherited wealth, exceptionally well-off.
The Elmhirsts poured their resources into the “Dartington Experiment” – restoring the estate buildings and setting up a host of farming, forestry and educational projects. Early initiatives included Dartington Hall School, Dartington Tweed Mill and later Dartington Glass.
Dartington rapidly became a magnet for artists, architects, writers, philosophers and musicians from around the world, creating an exceptional centre of creative activity.
The roll-call of outstanding people involved in the Dartington experiment includes Rabindranath Tagore, Jacqueline du Pré, Daniel Barenboim, Arthur Rubinstein, Igor Stravinsky, Imogen Holst, Benjamin Britten, Peter Maxwell Davies, Ravi Shankar, T E Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’), Bernard Leach, Paul Robeson, William Lescaze, Walter Gropius, Moholy Nagy, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, HG Wells, Yehudi Menuhin, Simon Rattle, Ben Nicholson, Aldous Huxley, James Lovelock, Rupert Sheldrake, Hazel Henderson, Amory Lovins, Jonathan Porritt, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Paul Hawken and Vandana Shiva.